This post is part of our series on what makes a good childhood.
Berry Street is acutely aware of what happens when children are denied a good childhood.
We know that while parents have the primary responsibility to provide their children with a good childhood, they cannot do this in isolation. Parents, carers, service providers like Berry Street, government and community all have a role in contributing to children’s wellbeing.
The role of family
Parenting is like any job – it requires skills, ongoing training and support. As the environment changes for children and young people, so too do our parenting skills and strategies need to adjust and respond to the new environment. As parents and carers, we need to understand the importance of effective parenting – and the harmful effects of ineffective parenting – to society as a whole, and recognise and understand the role we play as key influencers on our children’s environments.
The role of service providers
We need to ensure that the services and programs we deliver to children, young people and families, in particular those who are marginalised, are of the highest quality and meet their specific needs.
It is vital that the voices of children and young people are sought, valued and incorporated into the services and programs being provided – ensuring that we capture their subjective, as well as objective, wellbeing needs.
We need to provide support to parents and families in the early childhood development years and beyond, encouraging and supporting a discussion around parenting and parenting challenges.
The role of government
Government needs to continue to work as a supportive ‘partner’ with parents, service providers and communities across a range of service delivery areas to meet the changing needs of children, young people and families.
Government also needs to continue to confirm the importance of seeking, understanding and valuing children’s own perspectives on their subjective wellbeing and their lived experience over time.
If we want to improve children’s lives, it is important that we routinely include their perspectives in what is studied, counted and acted on in policy and practice. (Fattore 2007)
The role of community
The social impacts of parenting are widely recognised. Parenting effectiveness has critical social, economic and public health implications and is a critical means of reducing social disparities and promoting the quality of family, civic and community life. It is therefore imperative for all communities to find effective ways to support parents and families.
As a community, we need to engage the voice of children and young people in the discussion and decision-making around the design and planning of our communities.
We feel that it is time to engage with others, particularly with children and young people themselves, around what we can do to improve childhood for all children.
A shared responsibility
As Berry Street celebrates our 140th year of caring for the most marginalised children, young people and families in society, it is timely that we reflect on the adversities we have faced during that time, and prepare ourselves for the challenges that lie ahead. We hope to encourage discussion and debate about the changing conditions of childhood and the challenges we face today and into the future.
We need to start with ongoing and robust conversations around the state of childhood today, the key factors having an impact on childhood, and how we can best meet the changing needs of children, young people and families.
We need to ask: ‘What can we do as individuals, families, communities to ensure children and young people have the best childhood possible?’
Together, there is much we can do to ensure the wellbeing of children and young people in the 21st century and beyond.
Protecting our children and young people is everyone’s business.
Fattore, T., Mason, J., Watson, L., (2007) Ask the children: Overview of children’s understandings of well-being. NSW Commission for Children & Young People. University of Western Sydney.